We all know that parent/child, didactic workplace cultures where leaders emphasise control and authority over subordinates can be damaging to productivity, engagement, motivation and basically any positive metric we can seek to measure a businesses performance against.
Even better, the business world appears to be working this out now too. Far greater focus is now being placed on employee engagement, flattening of organisational structures and flexible approaches to work.
But what about workplace learning?
Sure we've moved from training to learning and development, even on to organisational development. Trainers have become facilitators. Cohorts are now guided through experiences instead of being lectured at. In some cases even PowerPoints have been conciled to the past!
So we've got it cracked? Well not quite. You see in L&D's desperation to be taken seriously we've set off on an agenda of codifying learning.
We track what people learn, devise career paths which tell people what to learn. We invest in wondrous LMS software to direct staff to what they should be learning and report on their engagement with their prescribed courses. We send updates to managers about which staff still aren't engaging with x training.
Reading this, you can start to see words which should start ringing alarm bells in the world of modern workplace culture- "track", "tell", "direct", "prescribe". In our efforts to be taken credibly we've started to talk the language of the very cultures we're seeking to change and evolve.
We advocate trusting our employees, autonomy to improve engagement, yet at the same time we tell them which is the right course to take and when, what tools they need to use to learn, and closely monitor their progress. These aren't behaviours which show a trusting business function. It screams we don't trust our employees to take responsibility of their own learning and the direction of their career.
There are recent improvements, the rise of curation signalling a move from courses to resources. Whilst this is progress, we're still telling people what they should be reading rather than trusting them to find this under their own steam.
So how do we fix it? Can we fix it? Should we fix it?
If we were to try and transfer control of learning to individuals and stop monitoring them then we'd be completely lost when it comes to proving ROI. But then most attempts I've seen at calculating ROI are wildly inaccurate estimates anyway.
I guess the biggest problem of handing control of learning back to individuals is the very real possibility that they might not need us any more at all! Then we definitely won't get a seat at the table.
So is that it? Game over for L&D. Or is there another way?
What do you think?